I shouldn’t be doing this, nobody ever reads my wall of texts.
Wonder Woman powers have been one of the (many, many, many) points of controversy among the fans and non-fans of the title recently.
Words like “incompetent” “weak” and “under-powered” have been thrown around a lot. Truth is, these (like most) are pointless complains with no real fundaments.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Perspective people.
Let’s take the always perfect example of Superman.
Imagine Superman fighting a Big-Damn Robot in the middle of Metropolis. How would it go down? Lots of screaming, lots of yelling, lots of strong earth shattering punches, a lot of destruction around the scene, building collapsing, big explosions. A pretty epic confrontation, right? you can see the incredible powers confronting each other on the environment and you can really feel what each of the two is capable off.
Now picture the same battle, but in the middle of the desert. No buildings, no rocks, no mountains, no nothing for miles and miles and miles. It’s still a pretty big confrontation, but in the end, there’s nothing around them that can prove the strength they’re showing, so, in the end, the battle feels somewhat inferior and the two fighters look weaker by comparison.
Now back to Metropolis, but with Superman fighting three arm robbers. Do you think this fight would cause massive destruction? No. Do you think Superman is gonna use all his powers against these three douche-bags? No. So the battle would be pretty unimpressive (if there’s a battle), and you would get the impression that nothing was really done.
It’s all perspective. Changing the scenario and the enemy doesn’t change the character, nor his power set. What changes it’s his way of the character for dealing with the threat and the way we look at the overall conflict.
With that said, let’s go take a look at some of the biggest fights WW had up to this point.
1* Diana vs Centaurs
Location: the middle of nowhere. The enemies: two random monsters.
No building to destroy, no damage to be done, just a quick one on one.
WW is still fast enough to see and understand that an arrow is coming their way. Some said that she appeared weak, since the arrow threw her to the ground, but that's a mistake: The strength of the arrow didn’t throw her to the ground, she threw herself to it. Look at the angle in the page.
But, despite being on the ground and a centaur soons attacks her, she needs mere seconds to decide what to do, and those are all pretty elaborate ideas: not simply kill the two monsters, but save the girl, steal their weapons, she gives us great showing of aim and agility.
These are not enemies she needs to use her superpowers on, they’re barely a threat and she treats them so, still humiliating them while remaining completely unscathed.
2* Diana vs Aleka
This a fight against a normal human being, a trained warrior Amazon that is, but still a mortal with no known superpowers. Plus, is a weapon based fight on top of pillars (so Diana can’t fly, that would be cheap and dishonorable). Again, it’s no slugfest, it’s a battle of tactics and talent with weapons. Note also, that Diana treats it like a game. While Aleka snarls and grimaces with anger, Diana keeps a smile through the all things, Aleka chooses the sword, Diana a simple staff. She knows she can beat Aleka in a second (hell, during Strife assaults she practically does that without looking at her), and that’s what she does: the battle lasts four hits.
Diana gives Aleka a false sense of security, allowing her to take make the first move, and the second she decides to strike, the battle is over.
This is a fight of body language and fight of psychology. Diana smiling, Aleka going all the way to take her down, everything is on the art (a gift by the amazing narrative abilities of Cliff Chiang). Azzarello doesn’t use the “internal monologue” that we are all so used too, so we don’t see it, it’s not spelled out, but it’s like it was there from the beginning.
It’s not a fight that needs superpowers, it’s a fight that requires talent, skills and mind.
Interlude: Diana “vs” Strife
I made this discussion to address the reasons Diana is not incompetent, but I won’t shy away from the less “stellar” moments.
It happens sometimes, in the life of a superhero, that something might just go a little wrong. S**t happens folks.
Diana is incompetent and stupid, Strife just pulls her from the ground with no problems.
WW got caught by surprise. Strife is a freakin’ goddess, a powerful entity, not the cosplayers we had on the book history since before the relaunch. Yes, she got caught by surprise. Does that make her incompetent and weak?
Is Superman incompetent for letting Lex Luthor punch him or trap him? Is Batman incompetent for letting Darkseid zap him? Is Flash incompetent for slip on the ice created by Cap Cold?
Superheroes are not entirely invincible, this kind of stuff happens. There’s a name for perfect heroes that never fail and never do wrong and are invincible and undefeated for their entire story: Mary Sue.
3* Diana vs Poseidon
Diana is weak, the big blue-whale can trap her and then hit her and she can’t do anything about it.
WW went to the meeting with Poseidon to talk. To trick him. She wasn’t there to fight and she wasn’t there to harm him. She’s not giving opposition because she doesn’t want to, not because she can’t. she wants to bring Poseidon to have a civil discussion with Hades, you can’t do that if you maim him.
And when Poseidon hits her (after she freed herself with no particular difficulty) what does happen? Nothing. No bruises, no screams, no complains, it’s like a leaf touched her skin. In a matter of instants, she sees the two centaurs attacking once more. No problem
4* Diana vs Centaurs, round Two
Dian can’t fly, she uses the staff to jump and rescue Zola.
No. The use of the pole is just another proof of Diana quick-mind and intelligence. In a matter of seconds, she uses the staff to hit the centaur and while she’s at it, she jumps against the second-Centaur. And now, this is a showing of her superstrenght: I’ve always thought she just landed on the monster and squashed him, but now I realize that’s stupid. That’s not what’s going on: her legs are clean, it’s her hands that are dirty with blood.
That means, she ripped the centaur open with her bare hands. Now that’s strength.
(*cue to oooh Diana brutally slaughtered that poor innocent mindless-monster! She’s a brute*)
The Flight issue
New52 Diana can’t fly, the proofs are: you never see her doing it in her book / in Justice League Hal Jordan has to carry her around.
I say, bulls**t:
In JL5 It was an error of Jim Lee. How do I know that? Because he’s Jim Lee, and he does plenty of errors (in the previous issue he drew her costume in three different ways). Otherwise, how she goes from Washington to Metropolis in a matter of hours (the sky is darker in Metropolis)?
Also, you can clearly see her fly in Justice League Dark and Justice League #7 right at the side of Superman.
And in her book? One would argue that if she flies in the other books, she should fly in her own too, right? Right.
She over on the water in issue 5. Unless she’s the Messiah and she’s walking on it. You can see her “diving” in issue 6.
Again, it’s Azzarello take. From his own mouth:
Maybe I'm just using her ability to fly judiciously. She's using her ability to fly judiciously! I've been really trying to take some of the powers that she has that I think are redundancies in other characters and claim them back[…]
Flying is like the character monologue-boxes. Is something you see every time in a superhero book and Azzarello simply doesn’t use/shows because it’s redundant or repetitive. That doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Let’s go back to Superman: if an author decides to never use Kryptonite (thank god) during the course of his run, does that mean Superman is now immune from it? Does it mean Kryptonite doesn’t exist? Of course not. The same way if a writer never uses batragans during his 80-issue run of Batman, that doesn’t mean the crusader doesn’t have them anymore.
Diana isn’t weaker, nor has she lost powers. The truth is, Azzarello simply decided to go to a different route. Instead of classic big superhero thrown downs, Diana is involved in fights that require her to use her brain, her talents as a trained warrior and her imagination.
She doesn’t need to fly, she doesn’t need to use her superstrenght, punch an enemy across the state, destroy a building, cause massive collateral damage, her body doesn’t have to receive big hits, but that doesn’t mean she can’t do all that stuff.
She’s not weaker. She’s the same in a different setting.